Successful Branding in a Digital World
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After a recent visit with a client, we had a long discussion on successful branding in a digital world. As we began the conversation, items such as the logo, tagline, company name and website quickly filled my ears from my client. I let him finish then I took a moment to explain to him, these are items used to help communicate and clarify your brand but they do not define your brand. Branding is strategic while marketing is tactical.
Your brand is “who you are” and “what people say”, when you are not around. It is your reputation. A great way to think of it is by saying, “ I am a great marketer”, and this of course is marketing. It is when your customer comes up to you and says, “I hear you are a great marketer, well this is your brand. Another way to think of it, marketing is the push and branding is the pull.
The important thing to remember is branding not only attracts new customers but it also attracts new recruits and new strategic partners also. This also leads to attracting more blue chip accounts and the ability to charge blue chip rates based on your reputation. So you can see why branding is so important.
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What makes a brand successful?
Sometimes it’s hard to measure a brand’s success. Revenue generated is always a sign that your brand is positive but let’s look at some other ways we can measure your brands success.
- Increased Referred Clients
- High Closing Percentage
- Shorter Closing Periods
- Ability to Charge Premium Fees
- High Social Media Engagement
It’s these type of situations you can measure to determine the success or decline of your brand in a digital market.
Branding in a Digital World
The digital world is changing how we approach our branding efforts. Many factors for brand success include a well-defined target audience, an excellent company reputation, success stories, high visibility and transparency. The new approach is a customer-centric model that attracts customers in this digital age. The goal is to educate your audience instead of promoting your company to showcase your knowledge and expertise in the industry. Key driving factors for this change
- Technology is making it possible to reach new audiences globally and easily through marketing automation applications and access to the Internet. Today, most initial contact is now made online.
- The value of time is forcing pressure on people to be more productive and thus having to learn more quickly. The Internet allows people to access information quickly and easily to solve a problem or answer a question.
- Digital is becoming the norm for all users as the younger generation is born into the digital age and if you are not digital, you are not able to compete.
- Expectations are high as the Internet allows a person to search for information. With this mindset, comes the expectation of free in the digital world. Free information to help a person do more. While free doesn’t mean everything for free, it does mean enough information leading to a trial use.
- Transparency is so important today because you are creating trust online. While online is the method today, it is still not completely trusted by everyone, so it is important to validate your existence to enhance your reputation. The more visible you are, the more trust you develop and this leads to the more engagement and eventually conversions to customers.
As we continued to discuss branding, I walked my client through my Branding Approach. I explained the differences between branding and marketing and how marketing is also strategic in is own sense as both a brand strategy and marketing strategy work together toward a common goal. For example, your brand strategy is to become the best at producing widgets and your marketing strategy is to increase your market share of the widgets market. Now create a marketing plan that integrates both strategies through a marketing mix implementation.
My Branding Approach is as three-step process
Step 1 – Storytelling Process – While our end result is a story, we must walk through this process to understand how to craft the right story. In doing so, we research our existing brand and audience to identify our strengths and create audience personas. This helps us to understand our brand in our audiences mind.
Storytelling is just as important as your strategy as it helps craft the strategy. Great story pulls your audience in, just as a great movie does the same. Once you can gather all the key elements of your story; the beginning, the middle and end, you can develop your story. This approach is called VVAPS (Vision, Values, Audience, Promise, Story).
- What is your Brand Vision – Set Milestones
- What are your Core Values – Who We are and Why Others should Care. A company review can help determine your existing values and help establish new ones. This can include:
- Branding Review
- Company mission/purpose
- Brand position statement
- Why you can believe
- Brand attributes
- Messaging Tone
- Elevator Pitch
- Review/Identify/Create Audience Personas – Research and gather data to determine your audience and their wants and needs. Identify strengths to your audience(s) including services and industries and prioritize.
- What is your Brand Promise – What you want to guarantee to your audience
- Create Your Story – Who are We Now. Now you have all the information to properly draft your story and let the right audience know what you do, how you do it and most importantly, why you do it!
Step 2 – Brand Strategy – Now that you know what your story is, you can set your brand strategy based on your VVAPS exercise. Many strategies exist but in the digital world, the key strategies include:
- Content Marketing
- Developing Visible Experts (Influencers)
- Working with Influencers through Strategic Partnerships
- Dominate the social media space of your industry
The key is to integrate a number of approaches in your Brand Strategy within your resources and capabilities. I always recommend content marketing and social media as a primary approach in the digital age as it brings the best ROI to reach your audience.
Step 3 –Implementation – Now its time to create the marketing implementation process. Going back to your VVAPS process, you can now create your marketing mix based on your findings.
- Marketing mix plan to reach your audience(s) through a digital approach. Such a mix should include the type of content needed, topics of discussion (based on personas), how often to reach your audience, budget and distribution platform(s) to reach your audience through content, blogs, keywords, SEO, social media, call to action, CRM, email campaigns, lead capture, social monitoring, etc.; all keeping within your brand strategy.
- Establish baselines through measurement tools to track and target
- Implement your schedule and budget
- Review every three months and adjust accordingly.
I ended our conversation about how a brand can make or break a company, just as your personal reputation can land you the right job or keep you from it. Take the time to review and evaluate your existing brand and understand what is working and what did not. Create a compelling story to attract customers and remember, your brand should have purpose beyond profitability.
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